Keep calm and hate Man United


“Hey man. So you watch football. Which team do you support?” 

“I support Chelsea. I hate Manchester United.”

This is the average ice-breaker I have with most football fans who don’t support Man United. I’m certain this observation will be endorsed by fellow United fans across the world. Over the last few years, especially since Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea reigned supreme over the league for two long years, there seems to be a staunch feeling of hatred towards the red half of Manchester, which is, if I may point out, the most successful English club ever. And they don’t necessarily have to be Chelsea fans. They could be Gunners or Scousers alike. So what if you are crazy about Liverpool/Chelsea/Arsenal? It’s imperative that you hate Manchester United to become a proper football fan, apparently. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard something like “Man U sucks” or “United? Sheesh, that team is crap.” Never mind that these were in the middle of a Premier League hat-trick from 2006 to 2009.

When you sit down and give some thought about the hatred, you could probably find one big reason for it. The vast number of plastic fans Man United has. This is a fact which even club legend Roy Keane observed. He remarked-

“Fans? Half the crowd at Old Trafford doesn’t know the first thing about Manchester United. It’s just that, as a team, we only care about the chants that go on while we play.”

This comment was made in his trademark anger rant when he heard some United fans at a Liverpool match had mocked the tragic Hillsborough incident. As much as I despise those who hate United for no rhyme or reason, I loathe the United fans who disrespect an incident like that. The number of such seasonal fans are aplenty at the club. There are those who think Wayne Rooney is the club captain. Then there are those who want Sir Alex to be sacked because he’s old. Then there are those who think Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player ever. Worse, there are a lot of fans, and I repeat, a lot of them, who don’t know who Eric Cantona, Bobby Charlton or George Best are. You extend the benefit of doubt and think, “alright, he probably won’t know who Bryan Robson is, but surely, club legends?” A surprise, or shock if you will, awaits. Post the remarkable 8-2 victory over Arsenal last season, the home page of my account at a social networking site looked like a Manchester United forum. Of course, most of them don’t know why the club or the true fans don’t like it when you say ‘Man U’. As fate would have it, most of them don’t care. Supporting a club which won 8-2 is a bragging right for them. That night, I looked up to the heavens and thanked the Almighty for making us romantics realize that support is much beyond bragging. Yes, I used that term. If you follow football for the love of the game, aren’t you a football-romantic?

So I went ahead and asked the haters if this was the reason. Some of them answered in the affirmative while some of them claimed to have the hatred because according to them every title Manchester United win is out of sheer luck. Terry slipped. Arsenal had injuries. Liverpool were unlucky. Chelsea had a change of coach. And of course, how do you forget the referee? The realization that the hate isn’t for any specific reason strikes soon enough. What do you do? Well what options do you have? End the conversation.

This, however, is most certainly not meant to be targeted at all the fans of other clubs. I’ve been lucky to have interacted with a fair amount of knowledgeable and unbiased fans. Those who like their own club, but know that every team has weak links and it’s not Manchester United’s fault that there are so many plastics. Genuine lovers of the game, bless their souls. Unfortunately enough, I’ve had the ignominy of being part of umpteen conversations with fans who cannot tell a pass from a through ball.

If you’ve been part of such conversations, you’ve probably asked yourself the next few questions. What makes following a club worth it? What is the core reason that you started following the club anyway? Is it because you liked the football they played, or because you hate some other team? After all, support equals unflinching belief in the club, right? Or is there a vested parallel meaning which involves hating something else? How hard is it, to be open and unbiased? Soon enough, you probably realized that your definition of support is probably how it should be. Does this place you at a higher pedestal than those who garner a tremendous amount of hatred towards certain clubs, which probably outweighs their love for the club they support? Yes, it does. If you are a fan who doesn’t put a suffix of ‘I hate XYZ’ in your football CV, you’re part of the privileged class who understand what it means to love the game.

Privileged? Of course. Football has always been for the privileged. Those who have tears in their eyes when their team purges through testing times to emerge victorious. Those who sit back, have the courage to smile and say “They were the better team. We got outplayed” when their team encounters defeat to an opposition superior on the day. Those who see Xavi and Iniesta run rings around your midfield and go “Wow, those two!” in honest appreciation of contemporary football’s closest attempt at attaining a form of art. Those who are left with their jaws open as the commentator shouts “Aguerooooooo!”, but shake their head and say to themselves “Damn! This is probably why I love football” or similar situations, for other clubs. Experiencing these emotions in sport was never part of a common man’s life. It never will be.

Sarthak Dev is a part of the @Football_P family. You can follow him at @sarthakdev.

  • Doshmeister

    Great article. I not only loathe plastic Man United supporters, but also loathe 90-95% of the so called football fans. The ones in India are the worst.
    This is the exact reason I never go to a pub to watch a big match with ‘fans’ cause their brain-dead comments end up pissing the shite out of me.

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  •! Great stuff man – Chelsea supporter

  • Good Article Bro 🙂
    And I share your attribute :”A good assist gives him more of a kick than scoring a goal.” 🙂

  • I’ve made sure this article reaches people in the United States and it’s spread like wildfire.
    It’s like you used a brain reader on me. Would love to watch Football matches with you rather than a group of ghaati IPL cricket like raanti’s who don’t play and know shite about football

  • Anoop

    A Chelsea ‘fan’ calling a Utd fan plastic? That’s a bit rich! I know what you are trying to say however stupid and baseless the point is. You say about the lack of atmosphere at OT and Keano saying about the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’. Then seamlessly you jump to point of the fans in India saying stuff like ‘ManU’. For one, the atmosphere at OT isn’t the greatest which we, Utd fans accept. And the reason is the cause. The popularity of Utd. The stadium is filled by moneybags from neighbouring cities who can afford to pay the premium prices which prevent the actual OT faithful being unable to see it. Now let’s compare this to Stamford Bridge. However bad OT’s atmosphere is, it is definitely, absolutely, without any shred of a doubt better than SB. When Keane says about 50% of OT, that’s about as close to what SB can accomodate right? So you can shut your trap right about that one. So let’s try to answer a question. How does a team win fans? Hmm.. some say history, some say the style of play and most would say their success at that time. And this is strictly in regards to the people who don’t live in their cities their team belongs to (in which case you are forced to support teams like Liverpool. :-P). The new premier league ushered in a huge fanbase for English Football, especially in Asia, and in India to some extent. So which team would expect to get the most fans? Yup, not Sheffield Wednesday. Manchester United. As far as being plastic is concerned, I agree with the humongous fanbase this team has there are bound to be ones who will go with the herd mentality. It’s obvious you have encountered quite a few of these kind, hence this childish rant. Now let’s come to the topic of ‘the’ Chelsea, the team which someone ridiculously mentioned above, plays with heart, soul and blah blah. Your team’s ‘fans’, as they like to call themselves, were won after 2004. Simple as that. Why? Well you said it! Jose Mourinho! It would have been hard to find anyone knowing about a mid-table club like Chelsea here in India, let alone support it. Now I see Ashley Cole and Torres jerseys and it makes me cringe (thankfully, can’t find many Citeh ones, for now atleast). May I ask you on what basis Chelsea obtained it’s supporters? Success. I would think a team with about 30% of the supporters plastic is still worth supporting more than one where the whole fanbase. I hate Liverpool more than Chelsea, but hate Chelsea supporters more than them. Something about people in glass houses…

  • Rohit

    I think this is a very well article that definitely makes a point, but I believe the hatred does not stem only from fans of Manchester United rivals. The plastic fans that Manchester United has play an equal share. I have many friends who are like that. They do not know the first thing about football except for the fact that at some time in history they were one of the most successful english clubs and have won the league on numerous occasions (many do not even know the exact number).
    Not only do they not know the first thing about football, (the difference between a through ball and a pass is a very good example) but they seem to have problems against the amount of money Chelsea and Manchester City seem to spend, the fake dives of Didier Drogba or Suarez, but they do not seem to have any problems against Nani’s dives on the other hand. Sir Alex is equivalent to god but even a talented manager like Mourinho or Arsene Wenger do not know the first thing about football and deserve to be sacked. I feel this is unfair to other clubs too, but then again, its not Manchester United’s fault that they have these kind of fans.
    In spite of all this I love the way you went about writing the last paragraph of the article and I know there are not many who know what the adrenaline rush feels like and the fast momentum of the game is, but these alone are what make it the single best game in the world. Not many can accept gracious defeat or even watch a match between smaller teams like Fulham and Aston Villa and still enjoy the game? I am glad to be able to say I can, and I think that is the question every fan needs to ask themselves, before portraying an angst against another club.

  • Sushant Sapre

    I completely agree with whatever you mentioned in the above article Sarthak. It seems you too have faced the same dilemma that many football lovers have faced that why someone would hate one club to prove his loyalty to another? I personally feel that football as a game always comes first in any circumstance. To see Barca dismantle United the way they did in 2009 and 2011 UCL Final was terrible but I accepted that we were outclassed in every aspect of the game. The appreciation towards the Football is what matters the most.
    A great article. Keep up the good work.

  • The Tej Tambe

    Many times I feel that people show hatred or anger towards clubs other than the one they are supporting to just show their knowledge or passion towards football which is pathetic and kiddish. I am an Arsenal fan for some time now and the only reason why i don’t like to see Man UTD winning anything is because of certain fans who know shit about the game or the club, bragging and yelling how great Man Utd is. I mean they only come out of their shells when Man Utd beats Arsenal 8 – 2. Rest of the time, they’ll be invincible.
    Also as the guy few posts above said that you get pleasure seeing your rival clubs beaten is something foolish. Yes if they loose it helps your team in the league but other than that hating just for the sake of it is foolish. I being an Arsenal fan think Drogba is one of the best strikers ever in the world even though he managed to screw us most of the times.
    Anyway good article. Cheers.

    • WTF Teju Tambelicious? how is that foolish man? appreciating your rival team’s players & getting satisfaction in their defeat are two different things. Why do you NEVER try to understand what I’m trying to say.

  • Anu

    Very well written and articulated article, nice to meet another true football (and Man United) fan! We’ve all met the kind of people you refer to in your piece and I couldnt agree more. I just wanted to add that emotions which are such an integral part of football do not allow very rational thought at times. So hating another team is a very instinctive reaction, and yet, it is the informed and interested mind out of all these that has the true benefit. They enjoy both the good and bad part of football emotions, enjoy football for its own sake and have the experience of being a real fan – the intelligence, rational mind and true love for the very essence of football that prevents them from crossing that line between being a true fan and a true knob 🙂

  • Rishabh

    Loved the article man. It’s a great read. I completely and whole-heartedly agree with you. These ‘haters’ have no idea what it means to support a club. Now, I am a Chelsea fan. I began watching the sport in Zola’s last season at the club. Soon Roman took over, Mourinho came in and this team was different. The football wasn’t pretty, but the team was great. This bunch had a will to go on, never give up and keep fighting till the whistle was blown. Sure you see that with a lot of the big teams but Chelsea had more. Lot’s more.
    Frank Lampard is a favourite, so when he placed that ball down on the penalty spot in the CL Semi-final against Liverpool just days after his mother passed away, I could feel for him. I had a lump my throat. When he scored, he ran to the corner flag, took off the black band, kissed it and cried. I had tears in my eyes too. I saw a man rise to the occasion, become a bigger man, carry a team on his shoulders, and all of this just days after such a tragic event. Truly inspiring.
    That’s when I realised that this was more than just a sport.

  • Sumukh

    The thing that pisses me off the most about united is their fans, They hate other clubs for no reason and most of them know nothing about football.

    • Goli Baba

      Yes Gu-mukh sir. You are very correct.

    • Michael Landrup

      Also, let me take a wild guess. You support Arsenal and like Barcelona’s style of play?

  • Dude, people hate United cause they win. It’s simple. I’d be bloody pissed if I were an LFC supporter thinking how their team does so well consistently. You can’t blame them.
    Although in the article I feel like you were only concerned with the noob scenario over here but, trust me, even the least biased of fans would hate their rivals, simply because they are rivals.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I hated the Arsenal invincibles, it’s quite natural. Where’s the sadistic pleasure of your opponents failing when they usually perform? That shit is priceless bro.

    We’d be quite rational when we write articles but the truth is as a United fan, I’d love to see City beaten 10-0 by QPR at the Etihad. (Dreamy, but would fancy that) & admit it, you’d love it too. So the same goes for our rivals, everyone orgasmed during that 6-1 game, but that’s the fun of it, without banter with the rival fans, football is just.. err Cricket.

    • What you’re talking about is sadistic pleasure or banter, which is perfectly fine. I’d love it if QPR beat City 10-0, but you’ll never hear me say ‘I hate Man City.’ We’re Indians sitting in Delhi and Bombay hating clubs from England because they’re rivals? Bullshit. We just feel the desire to be part of a crowd. Hence, we hate.

      • Shankz

        well said….there is a bit of everything really…Man Utd has many supporters because they are successful, also many haters because of the same reason…but your point about how silly it is for us Indians to “hate” clubs on rivalry is spot on..
        As an Arsenal fan, I just admire what Man Utd(rare combination) have achieved over all these consistently…and while being smart with the transfers as well and maintaining a very impressive balance sheet…just wish their football looked better though

  • ruudyroon

    Sorry man. I can see you’ve put in a lot of efforts in this article but it is poorly executed. Still figuring out what you’re trying to prove with this, only thing got me here was it’s title.

    • @ruudyroon

      Point here being you don’t need to hate a club to be a proper fan of the game. You can very well support whichever team you like and just enjoy the game. That being said, there are way too many ‘haters’ going around right now. People who need to mention which team they ‘hate’ when they have any football related conversation. As the comment above you right points out, the game > any club. Thank you. 🙂

  • Football is bigger than any club, and I hope your (superbly written) article makes people consider whether they’re a fan of a brand or love the club for football (and other myriad reasons).

    Then again, haters gonna hate.